The Antique Shop

a short story

On a street known as Artifact Row, in the historic district of Langford, D&D Antiques offered vintage collectibles. The owners, Dale and Doris, lived in the small apartment above the shop.

Per the rules of the town’s preservation committee, the shops and cafés of Artifact Row were required to maintain their 19th century façades. During the summer months, the lattice ironwork of the display windows and the frame of the double doors into D&Ds were coated with layers of black paint to keep them from oxidizing. Next to D&Ds, the Reitz Artifact Gallery, specializing in graphic arts, antiquarian maps and atlases, repainted its ironwork verdigris green and installed a new awning. On the other side of D&Ds, the wood framed windows and door of Dunwoody’s Furniture Restoration were repainted with a fresh coat of terra beige and brown.

Above D&D’s recessed doors were two transoms which, when lowered, gave the appearance with the doors of being the door’s black eyebrows. And above the transoms was a weathered green signboard with gold letters:

D&D Antiques

Things both Excellent and Rare

The shop’s windows displayed objects collected by Doris from estate sales. On exhibit, a menagerie of items passed down through generations of families including pottery, porcelains, vases, silver platters, a Tiffany lamp, jewelry, spelter candlesticks, figurines, watch fobs and watches, photographs and, postcards. A small banner with a gold star on a red and white field hung in the recessed window next to the door. Above it, a sign posting the shop’s hours. Beneath, a detachment of smartly uniformed nutcrackers that appeared to be standing guard at the door.

The shop now offered consignment, as Things both Excellent and Rare were no longer collected by Doris. A gaunt figure in her eighties, called a flower with a delicate stem by Dale, Doris could no longer attend estate sales. Her knees had become feeble, her gait wobbly, her strength gone. Dale noticed, too, that her mind had become wobbly. Doris no longer knew who he was. So, for a time, she remained with Dale in the shop.

During her days in the shop, Doris would sit listless in the spool-turned rocker. At times she would get up, hobble around and pick up pieces on display. She held them to her ear, as one would do with a sea shell at the beach. A dulcet smile would then appear on her face.

During fifty-five years of marriage, the two had worked hand in hand. Yet a time came to keep Doris upstairs. No longer active, Doris had grown weaker. Dale, also in his eighties, frail and hunched-over, could no longer help his wife up and down the apartment stairs. In the days that followed and at regular intervals, Dale would hang a “BACK IN TEN MINUTES” sign on his door. He would head up the shop’s adjoining stairs to their apartment to care for Doris, where she sat in her arm chair with a vacant stare.

On any given day, except on Mondays when the shop was closed, D&Ds was visited by women poring over each item and husbands who listened to Dale as he regaled them with his stories from his time in the Navy. The children who came along were directed to a corner of the store. There, Dale had set a small table, two chairs and a globe. On the table, Dale’s loose-leafed stamp albums. The children were enchanted by the colorful stamps Dale had collected from around the world. At Dale’s suggestion, they swirled the globe looking for each stamp’s country of origination.

 

It was now Sunday evening. The ageless sounding chimes of the grandfather clock and the sudden “koo-koo” of the Black Forest clock announced six-o’clock. It was time to close the shop. As was his habit, Dale placed the cash drawer and the antique jewelry in a safe. The coffee was shut off. The back door checked. The model train was shut off. The three weights of the grandfather clock were rehung. And, the two streetside lamps that shown down on the face of the shop were switched on.

After one last look around, Dale turned the door sign from “OPEN” TO “CLOSED” and stepped outside into stifling heat of the August night. As he turned the key in the lock, he noticed a thunderous commotion behind him. He looked around. Up and down the Row passersby stopped at window displays. Shoppers walked out of the closing shops. The tremendous clamor, clashes of curses and bellowing voices, seemed to come from the next street east. “Something is in the offing,” Dale thought. “There must be some confusion about the hour.” Tired, Dale trudged up the adjoining stairs.

 

11:10 and the shop was still.  The inconsonant tickticktick of three mantel clocks the only sound.

11:11. The grandfather clock began a sonorous toll. The cuckoo exited with loud rousing “koo-koos”. The conversation began again.

“Let us use our time wisely,” came the booming voice of the grandfather clock.

“Here one minute. Gone the next,” chirped the cuckoo.

“What? We sit here, day after day. Nothing changes,” moaned the mantel clock.

“I do have my ups and downs,” noted the barometer.

“It’s all the same,” sighed the depression glass.

“But we’re not the same,” countered the silver chalice. “Some of us have a higher station in life.”

“I was tops in my class,” said masthead light.

“But I summoned the attention of all,” said the ship’s bell.

“No. It was I,” said the bosun’s pipe.

“I held the compass,” said the binnacle proudly.

“But you are not me,” said the compass. “I gave directions.”

“I was the admiral’s go to,” said the brass ship’s wheel.

“You couldn’t go anywhere without me,” replied the rudder.

“You don’t know the time of day,” replied the ship’s clock.

“I’m getting sea sick,” growled the gyroscope.

“Boys. Boys. Don’t make waves,” admonished the sextant. “Know your place.”

“It’s all the same. Night after night.” groaned the glass.

“But we aren’t!” said the painting pointedly.

“We are!” declared the silverware.

“We aren’t”, squealed the Chantilly porcelain terrine.

“We are. We aren’t,” the rocker hemmed and hawed.

“Things are heating up again,” the fireplace poker jabbed. “Just the way I like it.”

“You’re always stirring things up,” jabbed the ivory letter opener.

“Can’t we all just get along,” the fine china clattered.

“Let’s have a party,” the silver platter prompted.

“Yes, let’s!” shouted the silverware.

“It’s all the same.”

“We’re not the same.”

“The same. Not the same. The same. Not the same,” choo-choo-ed the tinplate model train.

“At least I don’t go around in circles all day,” remarked the rubber stamp.

“No. You just sit there with ink on your face,” countered the train.

“Don’t rub it in,” the stamp came back.

“Now we’re getting somewhere!” pounced the Murano glass paperweight.

“Look who’s talking,” remarked the art nouveau hand mirror.

“It’s all the same.”

“We’re not the same.”

“We are. We aren’t.”

“The same, Not the same. The same. Not the same.”

“I could shed some light on this,” laughed the Tiffany lamp.

“You’re not plugged in,” the flat iron spoke frankly.

“And neither are you,” countered the candlestick holder.

“You can’t hold a candle to me,” bragged the wash basin

“Keep a lid on it,” the tea pot protested.

“I’m with her,” tittered the tea cup

“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” snorted the spittoon.

“Have you no taste? I am fine china!”

“Have some decorum,” pleaded the painting.

 

Tickticktick Tickticktick Tickticktick.

 

“Bor…ring. I’ve more important things to do,” brayed the brass bugle.

“He’s always blowing his own horn,” a nutcracker noted.

“It’s all the same.”

“You need to change your worldview,” the globe giggled.

“Get a hobby,” snickered the stamp album.

“The same, Not the same. The same. Not the same.”

“Let’s change the subject,” broached the book. “I am a first edition.”

“But I was here first!” shouted the Louis the XVI chair.

“And consigned to the dust bin of history,” scoffed the newly arrived brooch.

“I did not know you had come, and I shall not miss you when you go away,” replied the chair.

“I have served wine to kings and queens,” said the goblet. “I deserve better company.”

Mais oui, bien sûr,“ came back the chair. “As do I.”

“Those two are broken records,” the gramophone pointed out.

“I am above all that,” said the annoyed candelabra. “I have looked down on royalty and heads of state.”

Not to be overlooked, the Victorian sewing table said proudly, “Not what I have but what I do is my kingdom.”

“Let’s face it. It’s all about me,” the cameo came back.

“You’re just another face in the crowd,” the mirror mocked.

“The lady picked me up. Held me to her ear.”

“And what did you tell her?” queried the quartz watch.

“If it’s true it’s not new.”

“Are you a philosopher now?” wondered the Wedgewood vase.

“Though Truth and Falsehood be Near twins, yet Truth a little elder is,” recited the limited-edition poetry book with a flourish.

“It’s all the same.”

“We’re not the same.”

“We are. We aren’t.”

“Well, you are all waiting,” remarked the rubber stamp.

“Waiting for what?” asked the tintype.

“Waiting to be taken to a home,” cooed the wood doll.

“Home is where the heart is,” replied the postcard.

“You’re just ephemera. Here today. Gone tomorrow,” tut-ted the dressing table.

“You have no utility,” snarked the silver platter.

“I’m a keepsake. A reminder of times past,” the postcard said proudly.

“What you are is what you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now,” exhorted the jade Buddha.

“Right on!” shouted the mantel clock.

“Progress!” The cuckoo poked his head out.

“Revolution!” fired off the fireplace poker.

“Diversity!” yelled the stamp album.

“Equality!” exclaimed the stamps in unison.

“Solidarity!” cried the flat iron.

“Can’t we all get along?” pleaded the fine china. “We can all serve humanity.”

“Hear! Hear! Shouted the silverware.

“Keep it together,” begged the bookends.

“It’s all the same.”

“We’re not the same.”

“We are. We aren’t.”

 

Tickticktick Tickticktick Tickticktick.

 

2 AM. Grandfather tolled and the cuckoo called. A loud crash.

“What was that?” questioned the quilt.

“A torch,” said one of the nutcrackers.

“I’ve seen this before,” said the fireplace poker.

“What’s it for?” wondered the watch.

“A torch is for light,” said the candlestick holder.

“But why is it on the floor?” asked the Oriental rug anxiously.

“Perhaps it is to be sold,” speculated the rubber stamp.

“I’ve read about this sort of thing,” stated the first edition. “It doesn’t bode well.”

“Some say the world will end in fire … Some say in ice,” warned the poetry book.

“The fire is coming closer,” fretted the lute.

“Shouldn’t it be on a candleholder where it belongs,” asked the candlestick holder.

“Fire goes where it goes,” replied the fireplace poker.

“It’s going up my leg,” said the Louis the XVI chair.

“How does it feel Mr. High and Mighty?” asked the rubber stamp.

“It feels …ohhhh ohhhhh …familiar, …ohhhh! …. like searing passion and raging anger.” The chair tried to maintain composed, but, “… now, ow! Ow! OW! …je suis d’histoire! . Aurevoir à mes amis.” The chair toppled down.

“What shall we do?” roared the rocker engulfed in flames.

“Maybe the shopkeeper will come,” said the cameo.

“Bugle do something,” shouted a nutcracker, his ranks now diminished.

The bugle, overcome by smoke, sputtered and coughed, “splurrrrtttt ….cuh cuh ….cuh cuh …someone get me some AIRrrrrrr …!”

“If I only had water,” said the basin.

“If only someone had taken us home,” cried the postcard.

The mirror, enamored by its reflection, proudly stated, “Look at the light I am reflecting. The whole room is lit up.”

“Don’t you see what is happening?” rasped the rocker. “We are being consumed!”

“I’ve done my job,” replied the mirror.

“I want out!” cried the postcard, the flames edging up his sides.

“We’re all in this together,” wheezed the stamp album with its last breath. The conversation ended.

 

3 AM. There was no ageless sounding toll and no sudden “koo-koo”. The second story had collapsed.

 

 

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2020, All Rights Reserved

(aka, Lena de Vries)

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